Federal election officials until now have steered clear of Internet oversight, siding with bloggers and other online activists who portray the Web as a laboratory of grass-roots political participation and an outlet for free speech that should develop unhampered by the government.
Acknowledging the Internet’s growth, a federal judge last year ordered the FEC to extend some of the nation’s campaign finance and spending limits to political activity on the Web.
Bloggers fear that will mean new, unique limits on their activities, even though several of the commission’s six members have indicated they have no desire to go beyond what the judge has ordered them to do.
The upshot of this is that some bloggers will be obliged to report their activities to the FCC and treat their blogging as an “in-kind” contribution. Some of that makes sense. I can’t remember the details anymore, but there were some bloggers drawing salary (I think) from John Thune’s campaign against Senator Daschle. That’s a situation where reporting the cash flow is the honest thing to do.
There was a bunch of coverage on DailyKos, and a lawyer used that community as a nice source of free research in writing the letter Kos, Atrios and others sent to the FEC. There was a lot of initial concern, because an early draft that leaked out made it seem like it would require FEC reporting from any blog that wasn’t open to the public and expressly advocating for a candidate. Since that’s just about any blog worth reading, people got worried.
As the lawyer summarizes it, the major beef is over the “media exemption.” The new regulations
would expand the “media exception” from CFR from print/tv/radio to include internet sites, though they’re trying to work out the definition of what would count as a legitimate online news source. They explicitly want to know whether bloggers, whether acting as individuals or via incorporated or unincorporated entities, are also entitled to the exemption, whether as “periodical publications” already protected or through some other definition, and whether it makes any difference whether the bloggers is paid for content.
CFR=“campaign finance regulation”
So the question becomes: am I a journalist?
One commenter says:
I enjoy your posts, it gives me a “catch up” of Kansas issues since I do not listen or subscribe to any local news other than from NPR out of Lawerence.
And I admit, one motivation for starting TfK was to provide a little more background on local stories that even I wouldn’t pay attention to otherwise.
I also wanted to promote science education and get people informed and involved, and this comment seems to indicate it’s working:
Any way, thought I’d let you know that someone in NJ reads your blog every day. My daughter just graduated high school and wants to become a biology teacher.
Your efforts are crucial in assuring that she will have the right to teach science, not mythology. I’m keenly aware that Dover PA is only 170 miles (3 hours) from my home in cental NJ.
Thanks for all the good work.
On the other hand, I know what reporters do. My dad reported on-air for CBS and NBC News in New York, in Portland before than, and wrote and edited for print and broadcast news in Chicago. I know something of pounding the pavement, the bustle of the newsroom, and the effort that goes into professional journalism.
Almost everything I write is my take on someone else’s blog post, or a newspaper story. However, I add my own expertise, my own vision, and my own background to the story.
I’ve endorsed candidates from school board races to the Presidential race, and have raised money for the DNC and several House and Senate candidates.
Am I biased? Yes. Am I a journalist? Ms. TfK says yes. Should I have to go through FEC reporting because of what I do? I don’t think so. What I do is no worse than anything on Fox, and a lot of what’s on MSNBC and CNN.
One thing that’s very exciting about the growth of TfK is that I’m getting more feedback from my readers, and that’s really helpful. The commenters may disagree with me on some issues, but I feel like I learn from our conversations in the comments, and I look forward to more discussions to come.
Some time in the next day, I expect I’ll get my 50,000th visitor. That’s an exciting milestone, and I wanted to look back at what TfK has become, and what it can be.
This Thursday, I’ll be launching the first of what I hope will be many dispatches from around the state. Anyone from around Kansas who’d like to participate in one of these conversations should let me know, and we’ll see what we can do. I’d especially like to hear from odd corners of Kansas. I want to know what people are thinking about in the rural areas that reporters don’t visit. I want to know what the day-to-day issues are in communities of 100 people. What are the conversations like in the little coffeeshops and mechanics’ shops?
I’m also talking to some people about putting together a DailyKos for Kansas. It’d be focused on building an online community to bring people together around the issues that matter to them.
It may not be reporting, and it may not be activism, but I think it’s worth a shot.